"Put down the pen someone else gave you. No one ever drafted a life worth living on borrowed ink. Get to San Francisco. Get to San Francisco in defiance of your geography, your ancestry and the lonely change rattling sad excuses in your pocket. Fuel up on pie and diner coffee and mystic visions and the freedom of not knowing what’s coming next except that you’re burning the road to outrun it"

I've just arrived back after a wonderful couple of weeks in and around San Francisco, and despite that vague sense that I don't know what day or time it is, I'm buzzing. We kept busy. There's lots I want to remember. Here's a list. Everyone likes lists.

  • Clowns everywhere: clown dogs, glass clowns, terrifying mexican clowns, beat clowns and an in-the-street encounter my iPhone managed to lose;
  • We stayed the first few nights in Henry Street, by the Castro. Nice area; very Brighton vibe;
  • 826 Valencia scored two visits: 20 minutes wandering around, poking stuff, giggling;
  • Gorgeous street art was everywhere. I'll not want for desktop wallpaper for some months;
  • Popped into SFBeta on the second night. Liked what I saw of SendGrid (simple; boring but necessary; well-presented by staff who knew what they were talking about). Kinda disappointed by a couple of the other startups: folks there just didn't know basic facts about the businesses they were representing. The venue was great, there's bags of enthusiasm in the air and it felt well-organised, but also like the edges of a "scene", rather than a set of people uniformly out to change the world;
  • The Creme Brûlée Cart. I can't add anything to that - amazing;
  • The California Academy of Sciences: lovely museum, I particularly enjoyed the temperate environment they'd set up. Walking through humid air surrounding by large, colourful butterflies was a magical moment;
  • We walked across Golden Gate Park, down to Ocean Beach and hung out with Pete and friends. I'd not seen Pete for years, and his friends (also employers) were lovely. Felt slight envy over an office from which one can see passing whales tho;
  • Lots of wandering around different areas of the city, sampling the atmosphere and gasping at some of the properties;
  • The Beat Museum, a scratched draft of Howl, and musty newspaper clippings;
  • The seals at Pier 39 performed for us on several occasions. Down in Monterey, their cousins welcomed us back from a boat trip;
  • We walked out along the coast, past the Golden Gate Bridge and to the Sutro baths;
  • The Palace of Fine Arts had a couple of visits, one in cloud, one in sun. It was one of the high points for me: an elaborately constructed faux-roman ruin, build to crumble and reinstated after popular demand;
  • The Japanese Garden and Arboretum in Golden Gate Park took us for another afternoon;
  • The street performer who we wandered upon just south of the Park, balancing on a basketball, soulfully singing and whistling along to her accordion: we were spellbound;
  • The Wave Organ at the end of the pier; it wasn't so tuneful when we were there, but a thing of beauty nonetheless; Telegram from Buckminster Fuller
  • We suited up with SF Giants gear and went to our first baseball game, scratching at school-day memories of playing Rounders in an attempt to understand wtf was going on. I loved it, and I can't really tell why;
  • I ate a Bear Claw. OK, it's a pastry;
  • MOMA had an exhibition about Buckminster Fuller. I knew nothing about him. Now I know next-to-nothing, and have a few more books on the wish list. I think he had Burroughs write his telegrams;
  • We found the concrete slide off Seward Street, procured wax paper, and propelled ourselves down it, swearing as quietly as possible;
  • A tour around USS Pampanito: 5 minutes under the waterline was enough to persuade me that I am claustrophobic, after all, and would make a crap submariner. A gentleman on board told us an horrific story of an accidental sinking of 2000 Allied POWs. I remembered the Glowworm;
  • It turned out we were staying 5 minutes from the Long Now Foundation. Who'da thought it?
  • Dinner with Robert and some of his chums one night, and a private audience with the snaffler the following evening, both in lushest SOMA. Coincidentally, discovered a whisky I like; Perfect coastal view
  • We drove out of town and south along the coast - past the most beautiful coastal scenery I've ever seen. Beaches, caves, waterfalls, railways;
  • We popped into Carmel, and loathed it instantly;
  • Two nights in Deetjens Inn at Big Sur: wandering down to beaches and into the woods by day, stuffing ourselves by night;
  • We learned that nothing says "Hope" like a wooden chicken pushing a wheelbarrow full of apples, labelled "Hope";
  • We also learned how to avoid, or attract, a mountain lion (which one you get depends heavily on whether your desire to see a mountain lion outweighs your desire to lose a small child);
  • Popped into Esalen for a couple of hours in a hot tub and a massage. Could have become a hippy and stayed;
  • I loved the beautiful pavement poetry in San Francisco (even if I didn't like the poems themselves, it was a bit more committed than "Poems on the Underground"), and we found poetry of a Vogon standard around Big Sur;
  • Went whale-watching off Monterey. Saw some whales from a distance: interesting, but not really close enough to be all that meaningful;
  • And then there was the food. We ate out, prodigiously, and never once had a dud meal.

So, err, pretty darn great then. "San Francisco is just like Brighton", they say. Well, They are wrong: it's a boatload nicer and more diverse, and the comparison is one I've only heard this side of the pond. I've stuck all my photos here so you can see for yourself.